Having suffered loses of 11-8 and 9-8 against Lowell earlier this season, Spring Lake finally figured out how to stop the Red Arrows, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Lakers extended their season with the win, which allows star seniors Kate Vinkemulder and Elena Antekeier the chance to play at least one more game.
The Lakers were hot out of the gate Friday, scoring two quick goals to send their home fans into a frenzied roar. Lowell worked the game into a 3-3 tie, but Spring Lake answered with a three-goal run.
“(Getting off to a quick start) always sets the tone,” said Spring Lake head coach Jason Vinkemulder. “I’d much rather be in that situation than the opposite. The players came out ready to play. We brought the intensity right from the start.”
In Spring Lake’s two previous matches against Lowell, the Red Arrows bullied their way down the field, using a combination of strength and speed to thwart Spring Lake at both ends. But Vinkemulder and the Lakers made a number of key adjustments Friday, including adding a little physicality of their own.
“We tried to match the physical style we knew Lowell would bring,” Vinkemulder said. “We don’t always play that way, but sometimes you have to make adjustments.
“It’s always a good thing to pick up a big win that means something. We felt we had a score to settle with Lowell. I’m proud of the way the team played. I was happy with everyone. I have no complaints. We focused on Lowell in the film room, and we changed our defense and midfield transition play to matchup against Lowell’s style of play.”
Spring Lake held possession much better Friday than its previous matchups against Lowell. Vinkemulder ran the offense, calling out plays and dictating the game’s tempo. She scored four goals, all in the first half, to spearhead the Lakers’ attack. Elena Antekeier added two goals, one on either side of halftime, but sophomore Macey Carey led the way with five goals.
Carey, who has really developed into a potent scoring threat throughout the season, was pleased with the team’s intensity against Lowell, understanding that was likely one of the main keys to victory.
“The win felt really fulfilling because we worked for this,” Carey said. “We broke down, in the film room, what we saw from our previous two matchups against Lowell, and we came out a lot more intense today.”
“The past games, Lowell got off to quick start, and I think that’s their thing, intensity. When we came out playing with that same intensity, it really gave us a head start. We tried to live up to the physicality they bring, while still playing our own game.”
The game went back and forth with Spring Lake often moving ahead by three goals, only to have Lowell score quickly twice to get within one. That run of events happened three times, but each time Spring Lake held on and answered Lowell’s run.
Normally, the Lakers run a bevy of offensive sets through Antekeier, allowing her the freedom to run across the face of goal and fire a shot. Lowell had that covered, and even frequently borrowed the play, scoring numerous goals across the middle of the circle. But the Lakers adjusted, too, scoring goals off crisp passing and key movement, breaking down Lowell’s zone defense.
The Lakers claimed an 11-8 lead midway through the second half, seemingly in control of their own destiny. However, Lowell made a key stop with just over 10 minutes remaining on the clock, and then went down the field and scored. The Red Arrows scored again just a couple of minutes later, sending nervous vibes around The Shipyard.
With Lowell remaining in its zone defense, Spring Lake intelligently slowed the game down to run time off the clock. Some may not like icing a game, running time off the clock instead of playing the game out, but Lowell left the Lakers with no choice by packing its defense in the middle of the circle, leaving acres of space to run around and waste time.
The strategy paid off for Spring Lake, as Lowell’s last-ditch effort at goal sailed harmlessly wide. The Lakers now play Grand Rapids Christian on Wednesday at East Grand Rapids in the district semifinal.
“(The win) solidified all the things we’ve been working on,” Vinkemulder said. “It proved that the changes and improvements we made to the team worked.
“It gives us confidence. Grand Rapids Christian is a great team, and we will have our hands full, but if we tackle it with the same mindset as tonight things should go our way.”